What’s the Best Direction for Solar Panels in Australia?

best direction for solar panels

Finding the best direction for solar panels, whether roof- or ground-mounted systems, is the first step towards installing photovoltaic modules in your home.

Let’s get into the details. 

Installing Solar Panels in Australia 

Installing solar panels by yourself is not allowed, not to mention very dangerous. In fact, failure to follow legislative requirements and standards in Australia regarding the installation of solar panels could result in void warranties. You could also miss out on insurance policies, rebates and government incentive programs. 

Even if professionals do all the work, there is no reason why you shouldn’t become familiar with the best direction for solar panel placement. 

Having all the info will make you all the more confident when dealing with licensed installers.

Solar Panel Orientation

The best solar panel direction depends on several factors.

Location

Basically, the orientation that ensures a solar module is exposed to direct sunlight throughout the day is the best. 

In Australia, being in the Southern Hemisphere, the best position to place solar panels is facing true north, i.e. the direction from which the Sun is shining. 

The good news is that even if panels are not facing north, a typical home in Australia could still generate a decent yield. Actually, depending on your exact location and roof pitch, panels that are not facing north only lose between 10 and 20% of their efficiency.

Efficiency of solar panels at different orientations on a roof pitch of 25°. (Source: Solar Calculator)

Electricity consumption habits 

The next thing to consider is your electricity tariff.

Are you paying a flat electricity tariff, i.e. paying the same price regardless of what time of day you are using power, or does your rate vary?

If you belong to the former category, north-facing solar modules should do the trick. 

However, if you are on a time-of-use (TOU) rate, then the smart move is to generate electricity when you need it the most.

Which brings us to the next point: When do you use electricity the most? 

For homeowners who spend most of the day at home, north-facing panels are still the best option as these generate the highest yields during the day. 

On the other hand, if you consume more electricity during the late afternoon, west-facing solar panels are a better choice.  In this case, your electricity consumption coincides with the time of day you are charged peak rates by your electricity supplier, thus saving you more than a few dollars on bills, especially during the AC surge in summer. 

Do you have higher electricity consumption during the morning? Then east is your best bet as the energy you generate from solar power during this time will help you avoid peak electricity rates. 

Generally, south-facing panels are the worst option in Australia. In Sydney, for instance, south-facing solar panels would produce 28% less energy than north-facing panels. 

That said, in some areas, like the far north, solar panels facing south generate only 11% less than north-facing PV modules, so the south-north distinction is not as important here.

Shading

If there are trees or other buildings shading your solar system, then place the panels on the side of the house that is free of shades. This is true for all directions, even south, which produces the lowest electricity yields from solar arrays in Australia.

Inclination 

Another important consideration, the best angle for solar panels depends on geographical latitude. Here the general rule of thumb is keeping the solar panel tilt angle within 10° of your geographical latitude. For instance, if your home is at 34° latitude, then 34° is the optimal tilt angle. 

In other words, the closer your solar panels are to the poles, the more they should be lifted towards the equator. 

CanberraHobartDarwinAdelaidePerthBrisbaneMelbourneSydney
30°37°18°29°28°24°32°31°
Ideal panel angle from horizontal (Source: SolarQuotes)

Weather conditions are also important. Low-tilted photovoltaic modules could produce less energy due to constant exposure to dirt and debris, so proper maintenance of the system will be required more often.

What to Do if Your Solar Panels Have Already Been Installed?

Your solar panels are already up, and they are facing the wrong way?

Not to worry, there are several steps you can take to get optimal energy production.

Solar trackers 

Homeowners can invest in solar trackers—devices that will pivot the panels during the day so that they are always facing the sun

Even though a tracker can increase output by 45%, installing them is a costly investment. Plus, you would require approval from the council and detailed structural engineering. 

In short, solar trackers are rarely worth the money and effort you put into them. 

Battery systems

Investing in a battery system allows you to store excess electricity and use it when you need to. This way, it doesn’t matter if your panels face east or west, plus you can use the electricity you generate during the day at night.

Buying more solar panels

Solar panels are not as expensive as they used to be. In fact, you could get high-quality photovoltaic modules for around $7,000. So, if you are looking for ways to increase power output, buying a few extra solar panels and placing them in the right direction could be the cheapest option

Just make sure that each sub-array is connected to its own Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) within the inverter if you want to get the best performance from your solar system.

Bottom Line 

Choosing the best direction for solar panels is key to getting the most out of the system as well as recouping your investment in good time. 

If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to ask your installer for help. 

FAQs

1. Where should solar panels be placed?

The best place to mount solar panels in Australia depends on several factors, including the direction of the panels, the angle at which they are placed, shading from trees and surrounding buildings as well as the place where they should be installed, i.e. roof or ground.

2. Do solar panels have to be in direct sunlight? 

Solar panels use photons in daylight, meaning direct sun exposure isn’t absolutely necessary to produce electricity. However, having the solar panels exposed as much as possible to the sun will significantly boost the system’s output.

3. How much sun exposure do you need for solar panels?

This depends on where you live, although typically, solar panels should get about four to five hours of direct sunlight, preferably when the sun is in its zenith. 

4. What is the most efficient direction for solar panels?

The best direction for solar panels in Australia is for the units to be facing north—to be exposed to the sun as long as possible. However, if this isn’t possible, facing the panels north-west or north-east can also give you a good yield.

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